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GAOL-BIRD                                            155
of discourtesy, of the irritations of petty officialdom, of inade-
quate diet, and of attempts at mental intimidation- The fact that
Mrs. Naidu made no such charges justifies us in assuming that
there was never any occasion to make them.
When British critics point accusing fingers at the overflowing
prisons of India, when they draw invidious comparisons between
our avowed principles and our actual practice, they are ignoring
several vital factors—apart altogether from the fact that a large
proportion of the prisoners were self-confessed saboteurs, who, in
any other country at war, would have been, shot out of hand.
The first of these factors is that large numbers of the prisoners
positively forced themselves behind the bars. It was not a question
of how to bring them in but how to keep them out. It was the
"thing' to go to prison- It was smart, it was chic. The shadow of
the prison bars had the same cachet as the scars of the Heidelburg
student. Most of all, a spell in prison was an excellent financial
investment. For the politician, of course, it was essential, and for
the journalist, nearly so ; but even for the smaller fry it was time
well spent. There were always plenty of employers waiting with
open arms for 'safe' young men—young men who realized that
their true interests lay in the exclusion of British capital from the
Honest Congress politicians do not deny this. Why should they ?
It was a very ingenious way of embarrassing the British raj;
apart from the sheer physical difficulty of finding accommodation
for so many voluntary detenus, at a time when every available
building was overflowing with the military, the quotation of the
.prison figures had a very adverse effect on British prestige abroad*
Had the true facts been known, it would not have been only
British prestige that was affected. There is something profoundly
disquieting, to the Western observer, in this mass-masochism.  It
may be suggested that the Indians had no alternative. Even if we
grant this suggestion (which I do not) such conduct is unthinkable
in the youth of any other country. It is neither virile nor creative.
But it is profoundly Hindu. It is an aspect of a spirit which is to
be observed in many walks of Hindu life.
The other important factor which is ignored by our critics is the
large proportion of prisoners who came from classes so impover-